First yacht enters 2014 RORC Caribbean 600
Two previous competitors have been quick off the mark to confirm their participation in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC) 2014 Caribbean 600 race, but it was five-times race veteran, Bernie Evan-Wong who got there first.
Carrying the flag for host country Antigua and intent on at least a class win, Bernie Evan-Wong had chartered Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka 8 within an hour of docking his Mumm 36, High Tension after the finish of the 2013 race earlier this year:
"I decided I would look for a bigger boat for the next race and realised Quokka - who was docked next to me in Falmouth Harbour - was the best choice for my purposes, so I made a commitment there and then. Signing up early shows my serious commitment to the race and my crew," said Evan-Wong who has competed in all five editions, achieving two podium positions with High Tension.
"I have really enjoyed every race. Each one has been different, but driving a 36ft boat at hull speed or greater for 600 miles is no easy task. Waterline length is a definite advantage and Quokka is a Grand Soleil 43. We will have 13 crew to share the responsibilities and this is definitely advantageous; more crew can stay alert and will be less fatigued, so it's easier to keep her sailing flat out 100% of the time."
The crew will include a group of four friends from Dubai who got hooked on the race after following it on the race tracker and decided they wanted to be part of the action. They race a similar, but smaller boat in the Persian Gulf. High Tension's Antigua crew with five years experience of the race, along with Deep Blue Racing's Philippe Falle and possibly past RORC Commodore and boat owner, Peter Rutter will also be on board to help make a potentially winning combination.
"The RORC Caribbean 600 race captured my imagination the first time I heard about it," exclaimed Bernie Evan-Wong. "The thought of full-on racing, night and day in tropical waters for 600 miles was a challenge and an adventure I just could not resist! If you love sailing and are a serious sailor, you have to put the RORC Caribbean 600 on your itinerary."
Soldiers seize the opportunity
Practising some of the same skills required to go offshore racing, soldiers with little or no experience were first introduced to offshore racing through the Corps participation in the last two consecutive events. The opportunity to practise these skills in a different and demanding environment is one to be seized by the soldiers. It is a different and demanding environment, but working together as a team, under time pressure when cold, wet and tired and in difficult conditions is something they are used to.
For the 2014 race however, Lt Col Paul Macro RTR is charged with the selection, preparation and funding of the whole project and, with a hand-picked crew, is looking for a podium finish or first place to emulate the Army team's British Soldier success in 2011 in the highly competitive IRC 2 division:
"This time I wanted a race-proven boat and I intend to take a team of soldiers who have sailed before; who have an idea of what they are letting themselves in for, and who are up for the challenge this great race represents. However, one of the reasons for taking a more competitive crew and boat next year is that we have an eye on an Army entry in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series in 2015."
"I have signed up early because I wanted to secure a boat I was happy with and leave plenty of time for preparation. In particular I have a very clear idea who I want on the Royal Armoured Corps Team and I'm now working to ensure they can be released from their units for the race. (A number of the crew are deployed on operations in Afghanistan at present). This time round I will not be taking novices, but I will be taking a number of soldiers who sailed in the previous races and I will also be seeking crew from this year's White Knight 6 Rolex Fastnet campaign."
The Royal Armoured Corps sailing is not funded from the public purse, it all comes from charitable funds and the soldiers' own pocket. For the last two years they have been very fortunate to receive generous support from the Army Sports Lottery, the Royal Armoured Corps Central Fund and the Berlin Infantry Brigade Memorial Trust Fund. Additionally in 2012 they received some support from General Dynamics (UK).
Notice of Race
The Notice of Race for the 6th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 is now available and expressions of interest are being received, but should you need convincing read these:
Bernie Evan-Wong: "You can look forward to 600 miles of adventure, exhilaration, excitement and sometimes surprises. We once saw dolphins diving around the boat at night outlined by bright green phosphorescence! It's also common to see whales at that time of year. The race is also an incredibly well organized and I love the pre-race parties and camaraderie ashore as well as the warm welcome and cold beer when you come ashore after a long race in challenging conditions. The prize giving is a must and all the entries receive a beautiful keepsake English Harbour Rum Decanter, engraved with your yacht's name. Beautiful memories, not to be missed! Plus the keep-sake glossy photo book each competitor gets after the race as a memento is a really super touch."Lt Col Paul Macro RTR: "You'll get a fabulously friendly, but competitive race in a stunning location with a truly international entry field. Antigua's a great destination and the locals know how to party. Quite simply the best 600nm race that's going! Top 3 things: Guaranteed warm sunshine in February, guaranteed wind, a 600nm race that's as tactically challenging as the Fastnet, but around stunning Caribbean Islands."